The first U.S. production of Lost Highway, the opera that Austrian modernist composer Olga Neuwirth has based on David Lynch's film of the same name, opens tonight at New York's Miller Theatre following three performances at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio.
Lynch's controversial film has been transformed from a silent screenplay into a fully-scored composition with live electronics and original video footage by the Oberlin production crew.
Lost Highway, with a libretto by 2004 Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek, centers on Fred Madison, a jazz musician disturbed by the closed world of his beautiful but glacial wife, Renée. Fred suspects an extramarital affair and he murders Renée. Fred then has a nervous breakdown and re-invents his life with Renée. He becomes young auto mechanic Pete Dayton, who is seduced by Alice, mistress of the most powerful mobster in town.
The production (see photos below) is a collaboration between Oberlin's Division of Contemporary Music and the Miller Theatre. Timothy Weiss conducts the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, with stage direction and sound design provided respectively by Jonathon Field, director of Oberlin Opera Theater, and Tom Lopez, chair of the TIMARA (Technology in Music and Related Arts) program. Sets are by Scott Dane Knowles, and the producer is professor of composition Lewis Nielson.
Regarding her avant-garde compositional style, Neuwirth has said "How can you draw people in, making it impossible for them to escape from listening? It's so hard in our times to listen. But I never want to make music very clear. It must always be a riddle. There is never a theme you can easily latch onto."